Brighton Festival puts community at its heart in a successful return to full-scale for 2022

Guest Director, Outdoor, Theatre

Brighton Festival 2022 saw a welcome return to scale for England’s largest curated multi-arts festival, with over 150 events, exhibitions and installations taking place across the city between 7 and 29 May. This year’s programme included 10 Brighton Festival Commissions, 2 world premieres and 3 UK premieres in a three-week celebration of the arts across Brighton & Hove and beyond. 

For the first time Brighton Festival welcomed two Guest Co-Directors: Syrian architect and author Marwa Al-Sabouni and Artistic Director of Brighton-based theatre makers dreamthinkspeak, Tristan Sharps.The pair chose the pertinent theme ofRebuilding to inspire this year’s Festival programme. 

Among the highlights was the world premiere of dreamthinkspeak’s major new Brighton Festival Commission,Unchain Me. This ambitious site-responsive production recast the audience as members of an underground activist group at secret locations across central Brighton. Directed by Brighton Festival Guest Co-Director Tristan Sharps, this unique theatrical experience was subject to phenomenal public demand and the sold-out run extended beyond the Festival to 12 June. 

Unchain Me was made possible with support from The Pebble Trust, whose new annual funding contribution to the Brighton Festival Commission series will offer audiences innovative and unique ways of seeing and experiencing the city of Brighton & Hove.

Fellow Guest Co-Director Marwa Al-Sabouni collaborated with Syrian architect Ghassan Jansiz to design a stunning pop-up community space on Hove seafront called The Riwaq. Inspired by Islamic architecture, the beautiful wooden colonnade became a popular Festival hub, attracting more than 22,000 visitors to a free and diverse programme of 150 different activities. Hosting community takeovers from local organisations such as Best Foot Music, Carousel, Little Green Pig and In House Records, alongside family events, workshops and live music and dance performances, The Riwaq became a much-loved inclusive space for everyone to enjoy.

The Riwaq was made possible with the support of major sponsor Moda Living, alongside Timber Development UK. Design and fabrication was by setWorks, design collaboration and structural engineering was by Webb Yates, and additional support has come from DHH Timber and Vanessa Norwood.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said:"It has been fantastic to see Brighton Festival back at full-strength this year, once again welcoming audiences from across the city and beyond. I'd like to thank all our artists, volunteers, staff, supporters and our Guest Co-Directors, Marwa Al-Sabouni and Tristan Sharps for coming together so brilliantly to make this Brighton Festival one for everyone to enjoy. And I’d especially like to thank all our audiences and communities for welcoming the festival back so warmly this year. We can’t wait for Brighton Festival 2023 now and I hope everyone will join us again next May."

Brighton Festival extended its reach to communities across Sussex as the popularA Weekend Without Walls partnership saw it join forces with Crawley Borough Council, supported by additional programming from Creative Crawley and Crawley Town Centre BID. Without Walls was supported by Southern Water. Delighted audiences enjoyed free pop-up performances, including the award-winningMiddle Child, who brought their unique blend of hip-hop and theatre to the streets of Crawley andLives of Clay, a thrilling performance combining Bharatanatyam dance and live ceramics in Hove. With further Festival events, including the community-drivenWitness Stand taking place in Shoreham and up on the South Downs andOur Place, supported by major sponsor the University of Sussex, in Hangleton, East Brighton and Moulsecoomb, the Festival continues to widen access to the arts for a broad audience across the region. 

Nowhere was this better illustrated than in the two events marking the beginning and end of this year’s Brighton Festival. The much-lovedChildren’s Paradereturned after an enforced two-year absence, bringing a riot of colour and creativity to the streets of Brighton. Over 5,000 children filled the city centre in an event jointly produced with award-winning community arts charitySame Sky,based on the themes of Rebuilding and Hope. This year’s Children’s Parade was supported by Southern Water and Brighton Girls.

Closing the Festival with a bang, Charles Hazlewood’s Paraorchestra brought their music and dance celebration SMOOSH! to the streets of East Brighton and also Hove seafront. This inclusive musical parade saw pop-karaoke classics from Fatboy Slim to Kate Bush performed by a troupe of dancers and a high-energy band - the perfect way to round off Brighton Festival 2022. 

Brighton Festival returns next year from6-28 May 2023. 



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Key numbers for Brighton Festival 2022

  • 150 events, exhibitions and installations took place from 7-29 May 2022
  • 124 events or installations took place indoors across multiple venues
  • 36 events were free
  • 10 events or digital projects took place online
  • 26 events or installations took place outdoors across multiple sites or locations
  • 101 performances offered tickets at £10 or less and the Pay It Forward scheme offered free ticket vouchers to community organisations

About Brighton Festival

Established in 1967, Brighton Festival is the largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival in England. Taking place over three weeks in May, the Festival is a celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and community events in venues and locations across Brighton, Hove and East Sussex.

Since 2009, Brighton Festival has attracted inspiring and internationally significant Guest Directors who bring cohesion to the artistic programme.The inaugural Guest Director was Anish Kapoor (2009) and has subsequently included prominent cultural figures such as Brian Eno (2010), Laurie Anderson (2016), Kae Tempest (2017), David Shrigley (2018),Rokia Traoré (2019) and Lemn Sissay MBE (2020/21).

About Marwa Al-Sabouni

Architect and author Marwa Al-Sabouni is based in the Syrian city of Homs and was named in the BBC’s 100 Women list 2019. Her acclaimed book,The Battle for Homewas chosen by The Guardian as one of the best architectural books of 2016. Her second book,Building for Hope, was published by Thames & Hudson in April 2021.

About Tristan Sharps

Tristan Sharps is Artistic Director ofdreamthinkspeak, a multi-disciplinary company, renowned for their site-responsive performances. They create productions that interweave live performance with film and installations that are ambitious in scope and often take place in unusual architectural spaces including a former department store, disused factory, underground abattoir and abandoned office blocks. Previous acclaimed sold-out Brighton Festival performances include Before I Sleep (2010) and The Rest is Silence (2012).